The ACCC has issued Federal Court proceedings against global consumer goods company, Reckitt Benckiser, alleging misleading claims in relation to its Nurofen ‘targeted pain’ products (Nurofen Back Pain, Nurofen Migraine Pain, Nurofen Period Pain and Nurofen Tension Headache).
The packaging for each of these products claims to target the specific type of pain referred to on the front of the packet.
The proceedings follow an investigation by consumer welfare group, CHOICE, which found no difference in the active ingredients for each of the targeted pain products – in fact, each product contains exactly the same dose of exactly the same active ingredient. The only difference is that these products are significantly more expensive than your average dose of ibuprofen (which is arguably just as effective).
The products were also the subject of a 2014 segment by the satirical (and hilarious) consumer program The Checkout. Watch it here.
The ACCC alleges that Reckitt Benckiser made false and misleading claims on the packaging of each of its targeted pain products (as well as on the Nurofen website) that each product was designed and formulated to treat a specific type of pain, that the products were better at treating each particular type of pain and that each product solely treated a particular type of pain.
Interestingly, in 2013 the Therapeutic Goods Administration requested that Reckitt Benckiser stop making any representations that each of the products targeted a specific source of pain.
The ACCC is seeking injunctive relief, an order for publication of corrective notices, penalties and costs.
Reckitt Benckiser may find it’s not the only consumer goods conglomerate with this little problem – CHOICE’s investigations resulted in similar findings when it came to Panadol Osteo and Panadol Back & Neck Long Lasting, in that both products comprised the same formulation of the same active ingredient. The only differences were in marketing and price. Joining the unenviable coterie is Coles’ Medichoice branded Migraine Pain and Period Pain products, which also comprise the same dose of the same active ingredient.
And with the ACCC having already announced (in its Compliance and Enforcement Policy) that truth in advertising and consumer issues in the health and medical sectors will receive ‘special attention’ in 2015, it’ll be interesting to see whether Nurofen’s competitors take pre-emptive action in ‘rethinking’ their product and marketing strategies, before they themselves are the subject of that attention.
The Nurofen matter is listed for a case conference on 31 March 2015. We’ll be watching closely.